For many years courts throughout the state only provided interpreters, if needed, for people with criminal cases. As of recent, anyone whose primary language is not English can request an interpreter free of charge to translate for them during a hearing.
Prior to 2015, anyone with a case in small claims, family law, divorce, legal separation, child support, and more had to hire their own interpreter. According to Lorena Pike, Interpreting Services Manager at Ventura County Superior Court, an interpreter can cost up to $800 dollars a day.
“In 2015 the judicial council, which is the administrative office of the court, told each one of the courts in California that they had to start providing interpreters for every single case,” Pike said to VIDA Newspaper. “It is a right to have equal access to all the services that our government agency provides to their citizens.”
Judge at the Ventura County Superior Court, Honorable Manuel J. Covarrubias, was part of a working group that looked at what could be done to improve the previous interpreting situation.
“Today we have new signs primarily on our website, that tell individuals that if they need an interpreter all they have to do is notify the court,” Covarrubias said to VIDA Newspaper. “They now will be provided an interpreter without any cost.”
For those who need a Spanish or Mixteco translator, there is always one available at the Ventura Court due to the high Spanish and Mixteco speaking population in the county.
It is recommended that one schedule an interpreter before their hearing, but if a Spanish or Mixteco one, this can almost always be arranged last minute if needed.
For other languages, Pike suggests scheduling an interpreter with the court at one to two weeks ahead of time.
There is also American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters available for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Covarrubias says that there are over 200 languages that can be translated by interpreters in the court.
“The interpreting office has forms available for people to request an interpreter ahead of time,” Covarrubias said.
Interpreters are also available at the court’s self-help center where information is provided about several court procedures.
Covarrubias says that it is important for people to know about the interpreting services that are available to the community to avoid any misunderstanding during a hearing.
“For many people, this is their first time in court and the courts are very foreign to them,” Covarrubias said. “In other countries they don’t have courts like we do here…they don’t speak in open court which is a big thing for them to come in and have to speak – they don’t have that experience.”
To find more information on interpreting services, visit the Ventura County Superior Court website at www.ventura.courts.ca.gov/language_access.html
The court’s interpreting services can also be reached at (805) 289-8799 or VCSCInterpreting@ventura.courts.ca.gov